To help you reach your goals and take control of your debts we’ve broken the process down into 4 manageable steps. Each week, we’ll guide you through the action plan with a clear to-do list so you know exactly what you need to do. Step 2: reduce your debts
We get it: tackling debt is hard, especially if it feels like your spending has spiralled out of control. That's why Step 2 of our debt series focuses on the best tactics to reduce your debt. The road to paying off those debts may not always be quick, but it's worth it. And by making a start today, you're putting yourself back in control of your money, rather than letting it run away with you.
To bring you the best tips we decided to ask an expert. We spoke to Erik Porter from The Money Charity. He's dealt with his own personal debt, worked for some of the biggest banks, and now he helps hundreds of people with their finances carrying out workshops across the country, so he really knows his stuff.
With these 12 handy tips and tricks that won't overwhelm, you'll be back in control of your money in no time.
Keep tabs on how much you owe
You can do this online with a budgeting tool, using Excel or Google Sheets, or a good ‘ole pen and paper will do the trick. Every time you make a payment, make a note of it and what that does to your total balance.
Seeing your debt levels go down is going to give you that sense of achievement and the motivation to keep going.
Prioritise debts over saving
It's always good to have an emergency fund stashed away, as this can help you to avoid future debt in the event of any unexpected costs. But once you have this sorted, it could be worth channeling any extra cash into your debts instead.
The interest rates on savings accounts are pretty poor at the moment, and they're certainly much lower than the rates on credit products. So by not paying down your debts and saving instead, you could be wasting money.
Create and use a budget
Having a budget will help you stay on top of your money and also let you know how much you can afford to pay towards your debt. It’s also helpful to have some objectives, maybe start with some smaller, achievable objectives to get you going.
Learn how to draw up a budget with our simple guide.
Open up an additional current account to help you separate your money
This will help make sure you don't accidentally spend any of your money. You may even get some money for switching.
Check and monitor your credit file regularly
This will help you identify any debts you may have forgotten about, help you to know what offers will be available to you, and help you keep track of your progress.
Consider consolidating your debt with a loan
Depending on the terms and conditions, some personal loans allow you to transfer your debt into one place.
Personal loans often come with much lower rates than other types of credit and a set payment each month for a specific period. This can make budgeting much easier and help you feel more in control.
Do the credit card shuffle
Make use of a balance transfer card and try to shift your credit card debts onto lower interest rate cards. Usually these types of cards come with a 0% interest-free period for a certain length of time.
If you can’t get a credit limit to cover all of your debt on a balance transfer card, think about moving over the debt that is costing you the most.
By moving money to lower interest rates, you could clear your balances quicker, because more of your monthly payments go towards paying off your debt.
Get a money transfer card to pay off your overdraft
If you're struggling to get out of your overdraft this step could help. When your pay-cheque lands into an overdrawn account, all that money will go straight towards getting you out of the red. It's a bit like filling up a cup with a hole in the bottom.
Money transfer cards have a feature which lets you transfer money directly into your bank account. This can make them a possible option if you want to clear any high-cost overdrafts or loans. This can give you much more control as you can pay off the credit card in manageable monthly installments.
Pay more than what’s required each month
Reducing the costs of your debts is a great first step, but if you can afford it (you’ll know this because you’ve got a budget!), you may want to think about ways to put more money towards your debts. This will help you deal with your debts more quickly.
Just make sure you can always have enough to cover priority debts such as rent/mortgage, utilities, council tax, etc.
Get serious about saving cash
Check whether you could lower your bills by changing providers. For example, you could save up to £537 your gas & electricity suppliers. See how much you could save on your energy bills by switching through ClearScore
Ditch subscriptions you don’t use. According to the Money Advice Service, the average Brit wastes £18.62 a month this way, mainly on gym memberships (why aren’t we surprised?).
Think about which purchases you usually regret and try to see if you can cut them out. This is usually much more effective than cutting down on things you genuinely care about.
Maximise your income
If you can't cut your expenses back any further, you may want to think about ways to boost your income.
Make sure you’re getting benefits that you’re entitled to. The aptly named website 'entitledto' has a handy calculator to take the hard work off you.
Sell things online. Facebook, eBay and Gumtree are an easy way to sell things quickly.
Use your assets for extra income. You could get a lodger or rent out your parking space for extra cash.
Check your PPI status. You may be eligible for a refund on some accounts.
Have you incurred a bank or credit card charge for going over your limits? You may be able to reclaim the cash back.
Know when it’s time to get help
If you need someone to talk to but aren’t quite ready to talk to a debt advisor, find a good friend, relative, or someone you trust. If you're worried about being judged, just think, if a friend confided in you would you judge them? The answer is probably no, right? When it comes to money we are often our own harshest critics.
If you’re working, your employer may even have some type of Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that can help. Chat to someone in your HR department to find out more. And don't worry, they have to keep things confidential.
If you start to feel overwhelmed or just need more support, make sure you get in touch with one of the debt charities. Help is available, but don’t be tempted to pay for it. There's so much free support out there to help you achieve your goals.